PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program Sonoma County Open House
Jun 30, 2019
By Laura Dupree
Are you prepared for another wildfire – and going without electricity for an extended period-of-time when extreme fire danger conditions are forecasted? It could happen again…
Such was the bottom-line message and the reason for an Open House hosted byPacific Gas and Electric Company at Santa Rosa’s Finley Community Center, for the purpose of providing customers information about its Community Wildfire Safety Program.
Placards lined the walls in the Person Auditorium and tables were buried in informational flyers to do with everything from the need for residents to maintain defensible space around their homes and property, to PG&E’s enhanced vegetation management program, electric infrastructure inspections in high fire-threat areas, and the Public Safety Power Shutoff program, among other things.
Matthew Richer, of Petaluma – one of over 200 attendees – said he was under the impression that there would be someone speaking at the event, which was not the case, though PG&E spokespeople were on hand to answer guests’ questions and concerns.
“I was looking forward to a presentation on the state of fire preparation … How bad do they anticipate the 2019 fire season to be? I wanted to hear PG&E’s assessment,” Richer said, adding, “Other than that, it’s nice of them to do this.”
Joanne Knez, with her husband, Tom, had specific questions for PG&E Public Safety Specialist Jim Wickham. She was to report back to her preparedness team in Oakmont, she said.
Mrs. Knez wanted to know if there is a central place where PG&E shuts off the gas in a fire event and she wanted information about generators. Apparently, Wickham provided her with the answers.
“If there’s a wildfire and you have to evacuate; turn your gas off and leave the lights on so the fire department can see. But if there’s an earthquake, don’t turn it off unless you smell gas or see the meter twirling too fast, or hear a sizzling sound, because that means there’s a leak and then you should turn it off,” she said. (If you suspect a gas leak, leave the area and call 911 and PG&E at 1-800-743-5000, states PG&E information.)
“People have been very helpful; I couldn’t ask for more. He knows all the answers,” Knez said of Wickham.
Then on a more serious note, she said, “They had to evacuate Oakmont where we live (during the wildfires in 2017). We happened to be out of town, but it was pretty traumatic for the people on our street.”
Kenwood’s Jim Kempers, attending the open house with his wife, Char, also remembers the devastating event as if it happened yesterday.
“We had about five or 10 minutes to get out and we lost everything. We wanted to see what was up (at the open house). She’s still nervous about it,” he said pointing to his wife who was nearby talking to a PG&E representative.
Local resident Debra Tavares is still upset about the fires as well, but seemingly equally so with PG&E.
“PG&E is getting off the hook of restitution without paying for the fires they started,” she said, among other things.
Public Safety Power Shutoff program
Under the Public Safety Power Shutoff program, aka PSPS, residents may be left in the dark if it’s determined fire danger threatens the electrical system in their community. PG&E will attempt to reach customers through calls, texts and emails using the contact information it has on file. In addition, the gas and electric company will use pge.com, social media, and local news and radio stations to notify customers and keep them informed and updated.
Meanwhile, PG&E encourages people to have an emergency plan and supply kit. Pamphlets were recently mailed to Sonoma County residents with tips on how to go about this.